Cheap Labor as ‘Cultural Exchange’

Newt Gingrich had a piece at Human Events yesterday bemoaning the decline in employment among young people, citing alarming statistics on the freefall in employment rates among the young (something my colleague Steve Camarota explores in more depth in a new report out today). While Newt’s characteristic rhetorical ineptitude got him in hot water with the chattering classes when he suggested kids should clean the bathrooms in their schools, he was, of course, correct. He writes:

It won’t solve the whole problem, but it would go a little way towards helping America’s poorest children learn the habits that can make them successful.  And the opportunity to see hard work pay off can ignite optimism in situations that might otherwise seem hopeless.

You know what else would go more than a little way towards helping American kids learn successful work habits — not importing foreigners to take entry-level jobs. And yet Gingrich continues to call for the importation of unlimited flows of new foreign workers to do the very jobs American teenagers would be looking for.

One such program that is already undermining the job prospects of American teenagers is the subject of a four-part series starting today by my colleague Jerry Kammer. Kammer (who won a Pulitzer Prize for helping put Duke Cunningham and his cabal behind bars) investigates the State Department’s Summer Work Travel program, the vehicle used by all those Irish and Ukrainian girls you see scooping ice cream at the beach. But what is supposed to be a “cultural exchange” program has turned into a $100 million industry supplying more than 100,000 cheap, indentured workers to employers year-round, displacing American kids at a time of high unemployment. (This is the program that led to student protests at a Hershey candy warehouse this summer.) As the announcement for the series puts it, the program “is emblematic of a larger problem with the nation’s immigration system, where new programs are created and allowed to expand significantly without giving careful consideration to their impact on the labor market or the larger American society.”

In tomorrow’s installment, Kammer talks to a waitress at a restaurant in Ocean City, Md.:

“American kids will come in May when the season is just getting started, and we tell them, ‘Sorry, we’re all full,’” said Trina Warner. “And they say, ‘Already?’ They have no idea that foreign students have already been hired,” she said.

Then she added, “They don’t know how the system works.”

It sure doesn’t work for them.

Mark Krikorian — Mark Krikorian, a nationally recognized expert on immigration issues, has served as Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) since 1995.

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